Television producer Jillian Anderson competed on Season 19 of “The Bachelor” back in 2015, vying for the heart of Bachelor Chris Soules. After a stint on the second season of “Bachelor in Paradise,” she returned to off-camera life, working now as a publicist for a DC-based strategic communications firm.
We’ve interviewed her on The Federalist Radio Hour before, and always love to check in with Jillian around “Bachelor” season to see what behind-the-scenes insights on the show—past, present, and future—we can squeeze out of her. On the eve of Pilot Pete’s season premiere, I posed a few questions to Jillian, who was kind enough to expand in detail on her own reality show experience, and provide some thoughts on the iconic program’s appeal and evolution. Make sure to stick around for Jillian’s final answer on how appearing on “The Bachelor” transformed her faith.
You were on “The Bachelor” five years ago, which was already more than a decade into the show’s run. Why do you think audiences keep coming back for more?
I was a giant fan of the show for many years before I was on it myself. I think people watch for a few reasons. One being that it is an ultimate fantasy to watch, to have a dreamy (what appears to be perfect man) taking these hopeful girls away on these ridiculously lavish dates. You want to be one of those girls and usually identify your favorites and live through them throughout the experience. It is also a betting game, it is so fun to place bets on which contestant is going to go far based on day one.
Every season the contestants create more drama with wild backstories and its just fun drama. And cat fights… always fun, duh! The last few years every new bachelor or bachelorette has been a former contestant and if you watch the show once you continue to stay hooked because you’re invested in the characters and ultimately root for them.
Using Colton’s season as an example, do you think there’s an effort to keep things interesting by contestants resisting the traditional format in some subtle ways?
100 percent. The show has been so formulaic (but successful) for years. I think they try to throw viewers off from time to time. Juan’s season challenged viewers because he didn’t propose. It threw everyone off and he became a villain. It was interesting to see that the producers let that unfold again with Colton, but in this case Colton was a way more likable contestant so I think he got off easy with the scrutiny. Viewers tend to want the show to work a.k.a. see a marriage… why else have they invested all this time every Monday?! They threw off the dynamic with Kaitlyn and Britt’s season, two bachelorettes. I also didn’t think that went over well with the audience.
Do you think the show is getting less sexually conservative? (The trailer for this season shows fantasy suite drama, and there was the windmill moment on the last Bachelorette.)
Years ago when there was an overnight date the shot would go from a locking of a door to a shot of the waves… letting the viewers think for themselves. I def think the editing pushes a narrative.
“Bachelor in Paradise” shows so many hookups (that contestants think aren’t recorded.)
What was it like to know all the other women you were living with wanted the same man?
It was difficult because you wanted to be friends with these girls, after all they’re the only people you talk to the entire time you’re there. There’s literally one thing going on in your life, all day, every day for months… and it’s dating Chris. At the beginning everyone walks on eggshells. It is so weird to want to talk and ask questions but it’s also awkward because you don’t know who has your back and who might be sabotaging you. IE: Does my outfit look good… “umm Ashley it looks like crap but roll with it PLEASE.” As the show progresses you do confide more and more in each other, you’ve formed your trusted friendships with the girls and the producers. (The producer one always comes to bite you in the butt.) I was only ever completely trusting of a couple people, but you’re so emotionally stretched to the limits, tired, hungry, scared, worried that you need someone for survival, even if they’re competition.
I will also say it was awkward sharing concerns or saying something bad about the bachelor because you’re always mic’d up and even if you’re talking to the producers, that information will be used against you.
As a TV producer myself, I was so aware of that. My friend Britt and I found a spot in the backyard that stretched far enough that cam’s couldn’t pick up our mics that was the only time we really could be free to say whatever we wanted.
What should viewers watch for to see who’s really in it for the right reasons?
There are no tricks really. I think fame comes so instant because of social media now, they’re all slightly there for the fame. The more obvious people are the wannabe entertainers, musicians, and people without established careers (waitresses etc.).
Was it hard to develop chemistry with so many cameras on you?
For me 100%… first of all you’re mic’d up. So many people can hear you kiss, that always creeped me out… just the slobber and the pecking noises. There is a ton of people sitting ten feet away from you (or closer), as a producer I also knew there was a room of people monitoring this and knew this footage was going by so many eyeballs before it went onto TV. Then I kept thinking “omg my co-workers are going to see me kissing him.. MY DAD!” So much. I believe my production background made me more aware of my surroundings (eyeballs, microphones, staging) than others so I had a very difficult time being vulnerable in conversation or physically.
What was it like to go from being a normal person to suddenly having fans? How do you think social media affects the show now, compared to your season?
It was overwhelming and I felt undeserving. I suddenly had lines of fans waiting to talk to me at bars, standing outside of restaurants and stores… I was hosting events and people were there just for me. I had strangers taking photos of me at the gym or stopping me to talk while buying toilet paper. (I remember that happening specifically two times.) I felt like I had no privacy. I could travel and go to a random spot like Starbucks in a different state and slowly feel people staring at me. It made me very alert. I was always nice and tipped well.
A lot of my family and friends hated it. With fans come haters and that hurt my family and close friends a lot. My sisters and friends were fighting on blogs and on social media defending my honor when Ellen Degeneres, Jimmy Kimmel, People, or random fans drug my name and image through the mud. Some of my friends used me to be seen with me and some of my friends didn’t want to hang out with me because the attention wasn’t fun for them. It was ultimately very isolating and made me not trust friendships. I had people selling photos and stories all the while I felt so bruised from the scrutiny. No one understands the confusion, hurt ,or isolation quite like the other contestants, so we really all got closer, we couldn’t relate to our old friends anymore. This wide and public range of emotions was so foreign it was hard for the family/friends I had before to empathize.
Social media has really helped launch these contestants into instant fame. The rules of social media were tighter when I was on the show and the producers have really loosened their grip to the point where posting is encouraged.
When I was on the show, we had to delete all of our social media and we weren’t allowed to post anything until after the season finally. So if you left the show near the beginning it was hard to cultivate followers. We got away with talking on Twitter but often got reprimanded by producers if we shared too much. We weren’t given many photos of our experience in the house by the producers because of the strict rules.
Will Pilot Pete be a good Bachelor?
I don’t watch anymore so I have no idea? Another pilot… I bet Jake’s jealous. (went on a date with him once, interesting guy…)
How does you experience on the show shape your life?
The show opened up my eyes to a world I never knew, one with so much opportunity. I developed a very thick skin (took a lot of time) and judge less harshly. Even when I joke about “Real Housewives,” I am fully aware they’re playing a part and their actions are highly encouraged and manipulated.
I met amazing people who I otherwise wouldn’t have been friends with both from the show and the experiences I had after it. I am so open minded when I meet new people that come from different backgrounds that have different ways of thinking.
I became more of a risk-taker after. It’s so hard to explain but once you take this giant leap of faith once you want to keep doing it in all areas of your life. My childhood best friend told me “it was like I pulled the stick out of my a-s.”
The largest thing I gained by far is confidence in myself through my God. I felt so isolated, so hurt and scrutinized that the only way for me to stop crying or overthinking what I did, said, wore, how I acted was to say to myself, “Can I be proud of myself today? Is my God proud of his daughter?” I would ask myself that so much till that’s all I cared about.
I gave up trying to control other people’s opinions. I can’t control who likes me or who hates me, or who thinks I’m attractive, popular, manly, rude, stupid, nice, well dressed, etc. That was freeing. Now, I serve God in a way I wasn’t before. I relied on him for my confidence so much that it’s deeply engrained in me to only please Him. That was a life changer. I always loved God, I was always friends with him, but I was so broken and insecure I looked to him to guide me so I could be proud of myself again. I don’t always get that right but that is EASILY the best thing I gained.